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Heart Disease Health Center

Cost Concerns Delay Heart Attack Care

Uninsured, Underinsured Patients Seek Treatment Later, Study Finds
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Health Care Reform: Will It Change Things?

The sweeping health care reform legislation signed into law last month by President Obama is projected to extend health care coverage to 32 million previously uninsured Americans.

But Chan says it remains to be seen if medical care will be affordable for these people and for those who are insured but are seeing their out-of-pocket health care costs continue to rise.

“A decade ago, having insurance meant that most of your medical costs were covered,” he says. “These days, patients may be paying 20% and even 30% out of pocket.”

University of Washington researcher Andrew Wilper, MD, who studies the impact of insurance coverage on medical outcomes, agrees that rising out-of-pocket costs are a growing deterrent to medical treatment.

In a study published late last year, Wilper and colleagues from Harvard Medical School found that lack of adequate insurance is responsible for 45,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

“I don’t think anyone should be surprised that people delay seeking treatment for heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions because of concerns about paying for care,” Wilper tells WebMD.

Harvard associate professor of medicine David Himmelstein, MD, tells WebMD that in the United States someone dies every 12 minutes because they are either uninsured or underinsured.

“This study makes the point in a very dramatic way,” he says. “The findings are disturbing, but not really surprising.”

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